Couverdon boundary extension proposal does not receive electors’ approval

The Town of Ladysmith received 1,601 valid Elector Response Forms against the proposal during the Alternative Approval Process.

The preliminary results for the Couverdon boundary extension Alternative Approval Process in Ladysmith are in — a referendum will need to be held for the proposal to go any further.

The Town of Ladysmith recently conducted an Alternative Approval Process (AAP) to determine if the public supports proceeding with a proposal submitted by Couverdon Real Estate/TimberWest to expand the Town boundaries to include approximately 700 hectares of land owned by Couverdon/TimberWest.

The Town received 1,601 valid Elector Response Forms stating electors were against the proposal, and since more than 10 per cent of eligible Town of Ladysmith voters responded to the AAP, the proposed boundary expansion can only proceed if the Town obtains the assent of electors through a referendum.

The AAP is a way of gauging public opinion on matters that are important to the community, and this process has been used in the past for issues such as borrowing for the remake of First Avenue, the building of a new RCMP detachment office, the building of a new water supply pipeline, and the purchasing of a new fire truck, explained Ladysmith Mayor Rob Hutchins.

The process for undertaking an AAP is established by the provincial government.

“Public dialogue is vital in any community, and the Couverdon boundary extension application has created that dialogue,” Hutchins said in an e-mail to the Chronicle. “Council expected — and wanted — to hear from citizens who had questions and concerns about the proposed boundary extension. During the AAP, it became clear that our citizens and neighbours have concerns and questions, particularly about water supply issues.

“The Town has commissioned numerous studies over the last two decades and invested millions of dollars in water supply improvement. Today, the Town is using less water annually than it did 25 years ago. All studies using historical climate data indicate we have adequate supply of drinking water to support a population of 18,000 envisioned in our Official Community Plan.”

The work on climate modelling for water supply issues is underway, and council may decide that the work should be completed before further considering next steps in the process, including a possible referendum on the matter of a boundary expansion, according to Hutchins.

Hutchins says council is looking closely at the issues community members raised during the AAP, especially watershed protection and water supply.

“These are matters that concern council members as well, and the boundary expansion proposal included protecting significant portions of our watersheds that are now private managed forestland,” he said. “We believe that we can find ways to address citizens’ concerns, protect our watershed, ensure an adequate water supply and encourage sustainable economic growth. The concerns of our citizens that led to the defeat of the AAP are heard and respected by council.”

The boundary extension application was initiated by Couverdon, not council. Couverdon first brought the proposal forward to council and the community in 2008.

Hutchins says the Town will consult with Couverdon prior to considering whether to hold a referendum and timing of such a referendum.

The AAP results will be officially reported to council at the Monday, April 7 regular council meeting at 7 p.m. at Ladysmith City Hall.